Formerly Celebrated as Freedom Day in the City of Jacksonville

In 2015, the National Civic League endorsed the concept of a National Freedom Day holiday. While President Abraham Lincoln’s resolution to adopt the 13th Amendment is celebrated as an observance on the first of February, the date is not a national holiday.

The effort to continue the City’s legacy as A Caring Community and to adopt Freedom Day as a holiday in Jacksonville was led by Jacksonville City Council Members Jerome Willingham and Dr Angelia Washington. On June 21, 2016, during a regular City Council meeting, the City Council voted on and adopted the holiday into the City calendar. A resolution was passed naming the second Monday in December as a new City Holiday to observe Freedom Day. The date for the holiday was selected as falling between December 6, 1865, the date the 13th Amendment was ratified by the states, and December 18, 1865, the date the Proclamation of the 13th Amendment to the US Constitution was adopted.

It is believed Jacksonville is the first municipality in the US to adopt a holiday marking the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment. The action by the Jacksonville City Council closes City offices to mark the day annually on the second Monday of December. The Onslow Civic Affairs Committee will organize an observance ceremony each year for Freedom Day.

Liberated countries customarily celebrate their independence with a national holiday. Freedom Day will celebrate freedom of all peoples and bring awareness to the fact that, while human freedom is an inalienable right, human bondage and trafficking continues to be an epidemic problem worldwide.


In June 2021, President Biden declared Juneteenth (June 19) a Federal holiday. The Jacksonville City Council, with support from Councilmember Dr Angelia Washington, elected to dissolve Freedom Day as a City holiday and adopt Juneteenth in keeping with the same spirit and initiative the Freedom Day holiday had represented.

Juneteenth commemorates the emancipation of slaves. The date has been celebrated annually on June 19 in various parts of the United States since 1865.

History of the 13th Amendment:

The 13th amendment, which formally abolished slavery in the United States, passed the Senate on April 8, 1864, and the House on January 31,1865. On February 1, 1865, President Abraham Lincoln approved the Joint Resolution of Congress submitting the proposed amendment to the state legislatures. The necessary number of states ratified it by December 6, 1865. The 13th amendment to the United States Constitution provides that “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction."

In 1863 President Lincoln had issued the Emancipation Proclamation declaring “all persons held as slaves within any State, or designated part of a State, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States, shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free.” Nonetheless, the Emancipation Proclamation did not end slavery in the nation. Lincoln recognized that the Emancipation Proclamation would have to be followed by a constitutional amendment in order to guarantee the abolishment of slavery.

The 13th amendment was passed at the end of the Civil War before the Southern states had been restored to the Union and should have easily passed the Congress. Although the Senate passed it in April 1864, the House did not. At that point, Lincoln took an active role to ensure passage through congress. He insisted that passage of the 13th amendment be added to the Republican Party platform for the upcoming Presidential elections. His efforts met with success when the House passed the bill in January 1865 with a vote of 119–56.

With the adoption of the 13th amendment, the United States found a final constitutional solution to the issue of slavery. The 13th amendment, along with the14th and 15th, is one of the trio of Civil War amendments that greatly expanded the civil rights of Americans.

- The National Archives and Records Administration